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NASA launched its InSight spacecraft bound for Mars on Saturday morning from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, marking the first interplanetary mission ever to depart from the West Coast.

The spacecraft’s trip will last approximately seven months and cover some 301 million miles. It is scheduled to land in the Elysium Planitia region of Mars in late November.

According to NASA, it is “the first mission dedicated to understanding the internal structure of Mars.” After its arrival to Mars, the lander will begin a two-year experiment designed to enhance scientists’ understanding of Mars’ deeper interior.

The lander will dig deeper into Mars than ever before — nearly 16 feet or 5 meters — to take the planet’s temperature. It will also attempt to make the first measurements of marsquakes, using a seismometer placed directly on the Martian surface.

Scientists say they hope the experiment will provide them with clues about what Mars was like in the past and if those conditions could have accommodated life.

 

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